RFCA for Yorkshire and the Humber's chair David Rhodes reviews the first half of 2023/24
I’m delighted to be once again presenting our mid-year Association report to members. This year has, so far, been about business as usual.
Cadets go from strength to strength
Our cadet units and our cadets in Yorkshire continue to thrive, and we are seeing our adult volunteer numbers return to historic levels, helped by our adult volunteers social media campaign in the summer. We supported some excellent cadet camps during the summer holidays with cadets venturing across the British Isles from Plymouth to Scotland. We should be justly proud of the part we have played in returning the cadet movement in Yorkshire to success, but as always there is more that we need to do to reinforce that success.
Growth and achievement
I’m also pleased to report that we continue to lead the way nationally with our employer engagement, conducting employer learning days, and piloting a new Business & Military Expo with Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, an event which is destined to be repeated across the county with other chambers in the coming year.
HM Lord-Lieutenant Awards
We held our autumn Lord-Lieutenants’ Awards ceremonies across the county again this year, and I am always particularly impressed by the professional way the association team coordinate what is a complex evening, and the positive feedback we get from the Lord-Lieutenants and other guests.
Estate Team’s commitment
Our estate management team continues to deliver a safe and effective estate with minimal resources. The risk that we saw emerge earlier in the year regarding who manages our buildings has subsided, and the MOD have indicated that they wish us to continue to manage the volunteer estate into the foreseeable future, albeit with some changes as to who we contract with for our basic facilities management and maintenance tasks. We are content with the planned changes and see numerous advantages but there is much work to do over the next few months to iron out the detailed responsibilities and new funding arrangements. We will continue to ensure a safe estate during the transition, but I am conscious that the transition will impact some of our planned betterment projects in the short term. We will do what we can to mitigate this and get back on track as soon as possible.
Offering development opportunities
We’ve continued to support units with adventurous training and other non-core activities through our special unit grants, and the report for this year includes details of some of the exciting expeditions we’ve funded.
Financially, our MOD and regional funding for this year is adequate and we continue to retain sufficient reserves for future rainy days. That said we are well aware of the likely spending restraints on defence over the next few years so we are not complacent and we continue to drive efficiencies where we can.
As always I’d like to thank the Association staff for their hard work so far this year. I’d also like to thank members for their continued support, and more specifically those that offer their time to serve on the board and its committees. We could not do this without you. Thank you.
Supporting the region's cadets
Supporting cadets and adult volunteers
Creating opportunities for cadets
Summer Camp Success
We supported and successfully ran annual summer camps throughout the UK. Humberside and South Yorkshire Army Cadets were on location at Barry Budden Training Area in Scotland whilst Yorkshire (North and West) Army Cadets enjoyed their summer experience across beautiful Yorkshire. The Air Cadets travelled to Wales and the Sea Cadets ventured to Plymouth. Activities at camp included kayaking, rifle shooting and more. Many thanks to all the cadet force adult volunteers who planned and delivered this year’s annual camps.
The sky was the limit for our cadets
Along with The Yorkshire Cadet Trust and The Army Cadet Charitable Trust, we provided support to Humberside and South Yorkshire ACF for a sky-high experience. Fifteen cadets and three Adult Volunteers enjoyed parachute training in Netheravon.
We've created more space to learn
Funds from RE-OP have been used at 264 Squadron in Skipton where work has begun on a new extension onto the existing building. This will create space for two new classrooms, office and store. The property will then become a joint cadet centre serving both ATC and ACF. Project completion is May 2024.
Cadets on location at annual events and special occasions
Cadets celebrating the King's Coronation
Our cadets travelled to London and Windsor for the Coronation of His Majesty, King Charles III. They enjoyed the celebrations including the Coronation Concert.
We welcomed prospective cadets and employers to learn about the cadet experience
Despite wet weather, we had a another grand year at the Great Yorkshire Show. The cadets from 58 Squadron Harrogate Air Cadets and Astrea Academy Dearne CCF served as fantastic ambassadors, chatting with visitors about the cadet programme and sharing their experiences. Plenty of highlights enjoyed including meeting HRH Duke of Gloucester and HM Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire who made a special visit to our tent.
Cadets share what it means to receive top honour
We organised the annual Lord-Lieutenants’ Awards in Yorkshire and the Humber. To further celebrate the events, we launched videos featuring the newly appointed Lord-Lieutenant’s Cadets who share what it means to be appointed in their new role and their experience as a cadet. Tune in to the RFCA YH You Tube channel to watch the four videos.
We placed the spotlight on our Adult Volunteers
Promoting the work of adult volunteers
We produced a social media campaign during Volunteers’ Week that featured CFAVs in Yorkshire and the Humber. The campaign received excellent engagement (2000 views total) and emphasised the benefits of being a volunteer with a call to action to learn more about and join as a CFAV. We plan to run this campaign again in June 2024 and hopefully secure local media to help promote messaging. Watch a profile of Adult Volunteer, Jacqui Gorman, Lt Commander, York Sea Cadets or Lt Elaine Stephens, Manor CCF.
Supporting our region's reserve soldiers
Supporting our Reserve Forces
The 4th Battalion Royal Yorkshire Regiment (4RYORKS) travelled overseas to Michigan, USA during the summer to train with the US National Guard for the two-week training programme Exercise Northern Strike. They joined Regular and fellow Reservists where they reinforced their warfighting training and improved their interoperability skills and techniques with our US hosts.
Adventurous training in South America
The 4 R YORKS travelled to the Amazon for adventure training. The 10-day kayaking trip was a chance to enrich life and survival skills and explore the diverse environment on another continent. Captain Claire Norton, 4RYORKS, says of the experience, “Adventurous Training is a key component of individual training progression; providing invaluable training in the fundamental military skills of planning, organisation, leadership, personnel management and administration for those involved in the expedition’s preparation and delivery.”
We supported training around the world
We supported the Yorkshire Officers’ Training Regiment travel to Slovenia for Adventure Training. The Officer Cadets gained a SMF (Summer Mountain Foundation) qualification, QMDs (Quality Mountain Days, which count towards their next qualification) and were introduced to resilience training in the stunning Triglav National Park. Across Italy in the Dolomites along the Via Ferrata route, we supported officers from 212 Field Hospital to tackle Exercise Northern Dolomites Serpent. The expedition was a chance for the officers to gain a range of climbing qualifications and take adventure training to (literally!) new heights.
Promoting the Reserve Forces
We are updating our marketing assets
We are working with an external agency to refresh our Reservists video reel. This will be a tri-force feature and used for promotional use on our channels and at our events. Filming will begin early 2024 and completed by Autumn 2024.
We ran a successful social media campaign
A social media campaign to promote Yorkshire and Humber Reserve Forces ran during Armed Forces Week 2023. Five profiles featuring reservists, their roles and ‘why they are a reservist’ ran on our social media channels. The content received record engagement numbers (8,000 views combined). We will look to run a similar campaign in 2024.
Supporting The Royal Yorkshire Regiment's upcoming campaign
We are supporting a 4RYORKS winter 2023-24 social media campaign which will introduce an automated function to facilitate lead generation and follow-up. This will be used towards their recruitment efforts on their digital channels.
Recognising the work of Reservists
We celebrated Reservists from Yorkshire and the Humber who were recognised for their exceptional service to the forces community. Nineteen Reservists received Lord-Lieutenant’s Awards for their distinguished commitment and contributions. Pictured here, Sergeant Kalvin Neal with The Lord-Lieutenant of East Riding of Yorkshire, Mr Jim Dick OBE, CStJ.
Supporting the region's employers to be forces-friendly
Supporting employers to be forces-friendly
We have over 700 AFC signatories
We welcomed a milestone during Armed Forces Week– the 700th AFC signing for the Yorkshire and the Humber. Skipton Building Society reconfirmed their commitment to be a force-friendly employer at Skipton Castle. We look forward to working with them on joining ERS and their activity that will further their support for the military community.
We honoured a record number of Silver ERS Employers this year
Thirty-two employers were recognised for their outstanding support for the armed forces community and celebrated on 14 September at a formal awards event in York. Several of the 2023 Silver ERS recipients are actively working towards Gold ERS. Silver recipients included a range of employers in size, sector and industry. The HM Lord-Lieutenants from the four Yorkshire and Humber counties presented the employers with their awards.
This month we celebrated the 2023 Gold ERS winners of Yorkshire and the Humber and the North of England. The employers attended the Royal Gun Salute in York Museum Gardens followed by the awards ceremony at York Hospitium. HM Lord-Lieutenant of North Yorkshire, Mrs Johanna Ropner, took the role of Inspecting Officer accompanied by the Chief of Defence People, Vice Admiral Phil Hally CB MBE as the Senior Military host for the day.
Employer opportunities to understand transferable skills
We co-partnered to deliver Military Expos that bridge service personnel with industries
In the spring, we collaborated with the Doncaster Chamber of Commerce to host their first ever Business and Military Expo in South Yorkshire. The event was a huge success attracting over 115 attendees, 25 exhibitors and several guest speakers, including military and local employers who talked about topics such as how to engage with Defence and how they support the local Armed Forces community. In response to its success, we worked with partners for the ‘first-ever’ Business and Military Expo in Bradford in October, with similar events to roll out in Sheffield and Hull in Spring/Summer 2024.
We offered 'Learning Days' to employers
Our Employer Engagement Team, along with Squadrons 607 and 609 Royal Auxiliary Air Force, held ‘The Day in the Life of a Royal Air Force Reserve’ at RAF Leeming which gave employers insight into the management, leadership and transferable skills that Reserves and Service leavers can bring to their civilian employment. Guests were treated to a tour on site and interactive group exercises. It was informative event for employers to learn more about supporting and partnerships with the Armed Forces Community.
Conserving, contributing and connecting
Supporting improvements in the forces community
We work with partners to make improvements
Our Estates Team surveyors work with trade providers who help keep our facilities in top condition however they can. Thank you to The Bell Group who kindly sponsored the refresh of the cadet crest at 2527 Lawnswood Squadron. The cadets and adult volunteers are thrilled with the result of the crest’s repaint.
We helped with local conservation
In the run up to Volunteers’ Week and cool down from the Spring Association Meeting, the RFCA YH team took a break from the office to work on the River Ouse’s landscape and plant growth as part of our ‘Volunteer Day’. Thanks to St Nick’s Nature, a local organisation that focuses on environmental conservation, who led the day and provided the gardening tools for us.
We made our facility more accessible for all who use it
We are undertaking works at Scunthorpe Cadet unit to ensure inclusive measures are in place enabling accessibility for our cadets. Improvements include installation of a ramp (pictured), widening all relevant doorways, and installation of a disabled toilet with all associated facilities. Works are due to be completed November 2023.
We are future-proofing our estate with upgrades
We installed Electronic Vehicles (EV) chargers at seven Army Reserve Centres throughout Yorkshire and Humber allowing accessible and convenient charging points for officers and personnel. Full installation to be complete by November 2023 at the following locations:
Endcliffe Hall, Sheffield
Manor Top, Sheffield
Middleton Barracks, Hull
Churchill/Harewood Barracks, Leeds
Carlton Barracks, Leeds
Wakefield Army Reserve Centre
Worsley Barracks, York
We improve the fabric of where we work and train
The Estates Team have completed numerous site improvements throughout Yorkshire and the Humber in the past five months including (yet not limited to) work in Bridlington, Totley, Leeds, West Riding, Mexborough, Hull and more. Their efforts ensure that our facilities are suitable, modernised and fit-for-purpose where our personnel, cadets and reservists can constructively meet and work.